I definitely consider myself a do-it-yourself traveler (I’m on track to visit 30 countries by my 30th birthday), so people are surprised when I tell them that I use a travel agent.
Of course, there are times when I opt to book my own travel. For example, we’re visiting friends in Orlando soon and I bought the tickets online directly through the airline. If you’re taking a trip within the United States, I suggest using a website like Expedia or Priceline to buy the tickets instead of going through a travel agent. Taking a cruise? By all means, book away.
Travel Agents Know More Than You Do
An experienced travel agent will have the knowledge and connections that are helpful when planning expensive or long-term travel. They will know what airports to avoid and how much time you need between flights. Planning a trip to an unfamiliar destination? A travel agent can give you advice on what tour guide to hire, how much to pay, and what area of town you’ll want to stay in. Travel agents stay up-to-date on latest hotel openings, new nonstop flight routes, and travel deals.
Travel Agents Have Access
In addition to having more information than the rest of us, travel agents also have more access to people and resources that will make your trip go smoothly. We had some luggage issues on our honeymoon in Greece. On the last day of our honeymoon, rather than lounging on the beach, I was camped out the lobby of the hotel trying to talk to the airline. Then it dawned on me that I could call our travel agent for help. One quick call later, he was talking the airline and resolving our luggage problem.
Travel agents also have access to locals and maintain relationships with them. If you’re going to a foreign country where English is not the first language, an English-speaking guide is a godsend. A travel agent will be able to suggest guides that not only speak English, but will be a match for your needs and interests. It sure beats scrambling to find someone once you get to your destination.
A Travel Agent Can Save You Money
There is a common misconception that a travel agent is a luxury that most of us can’t afford. But the truth is, a good travel agent can actually save you money. Often, for international flights, our travel agent comes in with prices lower than we’d get booking directly through the airline — this is especially true when we’re doing a flexible flight search.
Sometimes the financial savings comes in when we’re able to avoid cancellation or change ticket fees. When my husband and I got married, we were living in South Africa. I was hoping to get my new passport from the South African Embassy in Cape Town, but I ended up having to renew it on a short trip back to America. I was planning on just carrying all of the documentation (old passport, new passport, and marriage license) on my flight home. However, when I went to the passport agency to get my new passport in my married name, they informed me that the airline probably would not let me board the flight since it was booked in my maiden name.
Since our travel agent booked the flight for us, I was able to call her immediately. While we waited at the passport agency, she made a few phone calls to sort out the situation. She called me back in 30 minutes to tell me that she had worked with the airline to change the name on my plane ticket, and even convinced the airline to waive any fees. It was great to know that she was on our side, advocating for us and saving us money.
Travel Agents Protect Your Investment
There are definitely trips that are all about the adventure — the mishaps and hiccups along the way are part of the fun. But then are the trips where you want to do everything you can to make sure your vacation goes as planned. Maybe it’s a trip you’ve been saving for or a vacation to celebrate an anniversary. That’s where a travel agent comes in. For a lot of us, a trip to Australia or an African safari are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. An experienced travel agent will make sure that your trip goes smoothly, and that your travel investment is protected.